Tracking down Conquest’s law on organisations – Vogel Wakefield

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Tracking down Conquest’s law on organisations – Vogel Wakefield

Tracking down Conquest’s law on organisations

By Martin Vogel

The more it is cited, the more frustrated I become about “Robert Conquest’s Third Law of Politics” which is said to state:

The simplest way to explain the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

The aphorism strikes me as so profound and relevant that I have often tried to verify its attribution. Conquest was a renowned historian of the Soviet Union, so his opinions on the politics of organisations carry considerable credibility.

However my endeavours to track down the quote would only ever turn up secondary sources, most notably this short piece posted in 2003 by John Derbyshire:

Several readers have asked me for Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of politics. As best I can remember, they are: 1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best. 2. Any organization not explicitly and constitutionally right-wing will sooner or later become left-wing. 3. The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.

The problem with this is that the second of these three laws appears to come not from Robert Conquest but John O’Sullivan, a former advisor to Margaret Thatcher.

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Tracking down Conquest’s law on organisations – Vogel Wakefield

John Derbyshire: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/conquests-laws-john-derbyshire/

another source: https://www.isegoria.net/2008/07/robert-conquests-three-laws-of-politics/

follow-up piece: https://vogelwakefield.com/2018/12/the-thoughtlessness-behind-organisational-perversity/